Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Body Types

I'm working my way through Innate Abilities--a mix of super powers, animal-style abilities, and "mutant powers." This is the compliment to the Generic Archetype Abilities as it is crucial to the rest of the book in complex ways. It is the base-line repository for many (albeit not all) unusual abilities.

It has to accomplish a few things:
1. List enough attack powers to make monsters (most monsters, anyway), all animals, and a decent number of "energy" or "mystical" attacks.
2. It has to have rules for playing very large and very small characters.
3. It has to have a wide variety of each category of ability--there will not just be 'Armor' but different kinds of Armor-plates and other rules around similar defenses to give the character and style.

Body Types
One of the first sections is "body types." I wanted to make sure that non-human animal-style characters would have some options that would give them basic templates to work from. For example: Quadruped (fast) gives the character superior stability and higher ground speed. They have a lower shoulder-height than a human of the same BLD and, unless they do something special, have no hands (but four legs!).

The Centaur Issue
I have a list of all or at least most of these abilities with "stat blocks" (although they are not "Complete and up-to-date"). One of the early ones is Centaur Body Type which is a humanoid torso (arms and head) and a lower body of something else (snake? horse? spider? etc.).

The purpose of the body-type is two-fold: (1) to let the character "play that thing" but secondly (2) to separate the JAGS-sian generalities around "Big things." JAGS is pretty dedicated to making big things "big." If you play an intelligent Elephant in JAGS you are going to have hundreds of Damage Points. If you play a "horse-man" you're going to have "a lot of DP."

And you're going to be big too. And bigger things hit harder in JAGS.

But there's a problem: in our formulation a Centaur with a sword who weighs 1500 lbs doesn't hit as hard as a 1500lb Giant with a sword--so says I. I mean, they could: and if you think they do, fine.

But they don't have to. The human torso's arms will not be as strong as the horse's legs. Presumably the arms can't lift a fraction of 1500 lbs as the legs can (and jump it). Furthermore, while a centaur might train to get their weight into a strike it seems unlikely that the kinematics of a horse will match up as well as those of a full on body twisting sword swing.

I mean--maybe not: I'm not an expert--but it seems to me that a centaur with a sword would strike like a very strong man--but not as well as a 1500lb sword using giant (although if you do assume weapons better created for the centaur they would get the advantage of their mass).

If you are buying the Centaur Body Type you have two options. The first is that you treat it just like a human. This is the case if you think that a Centaur with a sword hits as hard as the presumably optimized giant. In that case you just buy the stability / ground move. Maybe a Trample attack and hooves. And you're more or less good to go.

But if you take the other option then what? The other option is this:
You get a Centaur Body Type which limits the damage you do with punches and weapons to roughly that of the humanoid part (plus a bit) and you use your less optimized attacks (trample, mule kick) with your horse-portion. This means that the Centaur pays less for its size than a "Giant humanoid" of the same size since the horse-attacks (Trample, Mule-Kick) are less efficient in terms of REA and other things than punches or sword blows.

If you do that, then it is cheaper to be large like a centaur. This is good--there are all kinds of things out there that are not as efficient in terms of weapon usage as a human. Take, for example, a shark: it has a charge-in-and-bite attack. This is a powerful attack but the damage comes primarily from its jaw strength and not from the "ram attack" it does. A great white shark can weigh 4200 lbs. However if it swims up and bites you, while often fatal it is not always fatal the same way that JAGS would treat a human of that size swinging a sword at you.

What To Do?
What we are doing is this: providing a list of "body types" (Quadruped, Pisciform (fish), Avian, Insectoid, Serpent) and giving them some "basic attacks" that are usually less efficient than punches and human kicks. This makes their size and strength cheaper. If they do take something that optimizes their weight then they need to pay the same price as everyone else.

How'd I Come Up With Those Forms?
It turns out that there are (I checked) six phylum of animals--and under that a whole host of "orders of animals." I went through those and tried to get categories that made sense for the game. Especially since there will be some weird combinations (air sharks?) and the game categorization is not the scientific one (reptiles are a different phylum than mammals but crocodiles, cats, dogs, and horses are all four-legged creatures with different bio-weapons, skin-coverings, diets, and movement abilities).


  1. I saw this problem in RuneQuest some years ago, and the way they ended up addressing it was that they treated damage done in a way that would use the total body strength of the centaur (like a lance charge or kicking) different than they did swinging a sword. Its kind of a problematic issue, though; a lot of creatures could potentially be built in a way where some of their limbs weren't exhibiting their full strength. Even when dealing with humans, our arms aren't as strong as our legs generally, and we're still relatively close. A creature that has, for example, a dozen legs isn't probably hitting as hard with one of those legs as something that only has four, because each of them only needs to be strong enough to support a somewhat proportionately smaller part of the body.

    Since I'll finally get around to trying to run the game tomorrow, a couple of things occurred to me that I thought I'd comment/ask about:

    1. One of the things that strikes me about JAGS REA economy is that there's virtually no free movement in the game (other than the facing change); given people don't routinely walk out with 15 or more REA, I'd think that would encourage a lot of relatively static rounds as people do a Step-and-save-for-a-Dodge, and avoid having to move more than they must. Has this been your observation?

    2. Back in the day, I seem to recall you saying that the various skill level things that say you get a 0 REA "free" attack should actually cost 1 REA. Am I remembering right, and if so, why is that?

    3. Currently, there's no discussion of using guns or other missile weapons at Close ranges. I'd think this should be problematic to one degree or another (among other things its probably relatively easy to simply knock the barrel out of line). Currently its easier to use a rifle in that circumstance than a broadsword. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  2. Hey Marco, a question came up in play regarding those little one-yard movements you mention in regard to the melee reach ranges.

    Lets say someone is at 3 yards of distance. This is the top end of medium reach. Can they take a step in to 2 yards (thus making them able to attack with a short weapon), thus being able to attack with a short weapon without using a Step action, as long as their opponent does not elect to move back, keeping them in medium?

  3. Yes. Don't let the specific numbers of yards fool you. If you are at Medium Reach it's a Step action to go to Short. If at Long it's two steps.

    In JAGS Revised the exact location of the characters is a bit in-determinant during a Round anyway (if using a map you'll want to keep the miniature in the square or hex--but conceptually there can be some maneuvering around without the rules tracking it to the yard).

  4. I think I may have confused the question by using Step (as in the Action) and step (as a general term) in the same post. Let me rephrase it, since you seem to have answered "Yes" while effectively saying "No".

    I'm using a battle board. Characters are currently 3 hexes apart. As per our discussion about movement, a character wants, as part of his attack action, to move a yard closer, putting them only two hexes apart, and as written, has thus gone from Medium to Short range if his opponent does not elect to do the free one yard move back you referenced.

    Can he do this? That would seem to have been the implication of our discussion about mobility, but it seems to contradict the "Step" rule regarding closing reach categories.

  5. okay, I went and looked at the specific rules: Medium Reach is 3 to 4 yards. Short is 1-2 yards, right.

    So what happens is that the guy 3 yards out cannot hit with a short weapon without moving closer. He takes the step action and is now 2 yards away and /can/ use a short weapon (pg 116).


    1. Yes, he can do this. He is at the very outside limit of "short range" but, according to the rules, that's fine.

    He pays the Step action (or gets it for free with the REA for the Strike if his Initiative roll that Round was +5 or more) and then can hit.

    2. There is something philosophical about how we might imagine this working that I want to say--but I don't want to confuse things here so I'll post on it later--but the upshot is this: even though the character is at the /very outside/ of Short distance--the full 2 yards distance--by the rules they qualify as Short Range so, hey, they can use a short weapon.


  6. Uhm. I don't think I'm conveying my question well.

    When we talked about the question of how "mobile" JAGS fights were, you indicated that it was possible to move about a yard in the context of an attack action. My take from this was that _this did not require a Step action_.

    My question was whether this free movement would allow the closing of the reach categories, since normally that _does_ require a Step, and a single Step can only close one category. Now I'm beginning to wonder if I even understood your statement about that movement.

    As long as I'm posting, I've also remembered another question that came up in the game, regarding the Doubletap Action. Paraphrasing, since I don't have the book at hand, it indicated that when you doubletapped that you could not shoot again in the round. What wasn't clear, but caused some controversy, was whether that only applied after doubletapping, or in the round at all. If its the former, its kind of a meaningless limitation (as someone can simply always doubletap as their last attack). To add confusion to the question a Master in Firearms is noted to get a bonus with doubletapping, but also noted to get a 0 REA free attack with any other shot (I realize the latter is changed to be 1 REA, but that only minimally impacts this); given that's the case, it seems questionable when they'd want to doubletap if its really the only permitted attack (though its possible that doesn't include the free attack).
    Can you shed any light on this?

  7. Okay--it's a bit clearer now. Yeah. Okay--so the short answer is: "use the rules."

    That means you WILL have to take a Step action to close range with the target.

    As per the mobility thing: let me do a post on it.

    As per double-tapping: right now the rule is you double-tap as the last shot that Round but we're looking at that for the reason you described. It is, essentially, a way to get two shots /and do other things/ during the Round. But we're not sure we like that and might remove the description.

  8. Okay, I'll look at your blog entry about the other part.

    So for the moment, its okay to take a regular shot, then doubletap? It essentially just says you can't take more than one Doubletap in a round?